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Assignment 3: A Poster

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Assignment 3 soon crept up on me and it was time to put together a poster for a music event. Out of the selection I opted for a jazz evening as I wanted to make a throwback to the roaring 1920's as we enter the new 2020's.

I began by looking at existing jazz posters to see what they had in common with each other. I found the styles of artwork to be very varied and free with strong visual influences from the Art Deco movement of the 1920’s and 30’s when jazz music was the most widely popular during its initial inception.

A selection of images of different examples of jazz posters.

"Jazz" Spider Diagram

I then moved on to making a spider diagram, expanding my branches out through looking at search terms from the internet relating to jazz, including variations within the genre including slow and fast jazz and the later evolution into the swing music in the 40’s and 50’s. Listening to the same type of music in the background while researching was also genuinely relaxing and helpful, despite all the clichés.

This gave me plenty of ideas to look for images to gather into a mood board. The Jazz Age takes a lot of its visual cues from the experimental Avant Garde art movements that emerged around the same time after WW1. This burst of creativity led to a large amount of variation in posters and promotional material art styles as modern abstract forms became more common. The colours were mostly flat and blocked out into the geometric shapes that make the art deco philosophy of visual design so definitive for the era.

"Jazz" Mood Board

I absorbed all of this visual information and tried to channel it into similar approaches within my thumbnails. Because of the variety of arrangements and the abstract approach that can be seen in this kind of material, it was difficult for me to come up with a specific plan at this stage, so I sketched out the key elements that I wanted to experiment with and arranged them into different combinations in my thumbnails as I aimed for as much variety between each of them as I could manage.

Sketching out thumbnails.

After this, the assignment required me to take two of these thumbnail designs to adapt into line visuals. The first line visual was an variation on thumbnail 9. and was based around a female jazz singer with a microphone while also borrowing an idea across from thumbnail 5 with the waveforms pouring out of the microphone.

My second choice was the jazz club scene as viewed from a table in thumbnail 2. Although I also liked this design for the style of the lamp in the foreground, it still felt a bit abandoned with no people involved, so I developed my first choice into a colour visual to use as a guide for my final artwork, using colour swatches inspired by my moodboard.

Line and colour visuals

With a plan in place, I began developing the final image. As I was doing my research, I saw the flat colours with smooth gradients in 1920's Art Deco as an ideal art style to interpret in Adobe Illustrator. Very early on in this course in exercise 1.2, I took my first steps into using this tool with a less success than I wanted as I had felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew at the time. However, in a larger project setting like this one I hoped to improve my comfort levels by using the software almost exclusively in this instance.

At first when I started the project file in Illustrator, I had some trouble building up a figure without any references from scratch, so to get the ball rolling I sketched out my stylised jazz singer in more detail than my colour visual on paper as a starting to trace in my pathways to work with in Illustrator. The rest of the workflow I carried out digitally, but this was the analogue jump start that I needed.

Progression 1

I started off with simple shapes and placeholders then slowly started adding in details bit by bit using flat colours. The microphone and the arm took centre stage, and I made sure to leave the space between the art deco title text in the Broadway font, ready for the event details to be added later. The moon was an easy object to get in early to work out where it could sit above the singer.

As I went along I would constantly tweak areas to balance the different elements into how I wanted them to be. The biggest initial difference was in the shape of the woman's nose as although there is some charm in my initial line art, I found that the sharp angles clashed with the rest of the figure and in practice I preferred to have more of a natural look to her.

To contrast against the smoothness of the singer, the orange beams from the microphone that I had planned out in my colour fitted the art deco aesthetic better when they were kept as straight lines. An inspiration for this effect came from the poster design for the film Metropolis (1927).

I soon noticed that the middle beam interfered with the visibility of the title, so I split the beams into four and moved them into the lower frame to emanate from the microphone and behind the singer in the background. The reduced opacity and added fade to the ends near the microphone meant that they were no longer distracting and the newly added custom brushed stars could still be seen too.

The longest and most time consuming stage was to manually create light and texture for each layer. I was really striving for that grainy and dappled use of colour gradients, but I still wanted the light sources to be mostly accurate, so I did each piece individually rather than just applying a flat filter to the whole image at the end. I think the time spent paid off in the way that I hoped and I really like the feel of the end result.

In my colour visual I had planned on using parts of musical instruments as a kind of confetti around the mic, but at this stage I felt that adding it would look a bit too chaotic for such a relaxed looking scene. Instead, I experimented with a wavy smoke effect to place notes over, similar to sheet music unravelling. I wasn't sure if this would work at first, but when I scattered the notes over it complemented the rest of the elements nicely.

The information I used for the poster is from a real event that took place in 2016 and has been made only for the purpose of this exercise.

The final flourishes involved adding the information in an easier to read but still thematically relevant font Britannic, which as I'm writing this now still clashes a bit with the stars which is something I could have improved. Placing the piece in a sleek black and thin gold frame was the cherry on top to make the piece feel fully complete.


I really like the final result and although there are a few areas that could still be tweaked, this is the closest I have had in a while to an idea that has sustained itself throughout the planning stage until the process is complete. I hope this shows how my planning process is coming along as I tried to use elements of what I've learned through the exercises in part 3 to adjust my approaches.



Derby Live (2016) A Night Of Jazz

Graham Dixon, A. (2008) Art, The Definitive Visual Guide London: Dorling Kindersley

Illustration History (2018) The Decade 1920-1930 (Accessed on 26/01/2020)

Silka, P. (2016) Take a Ride Back in Time to the 1920s Art (Accessed on 26/01/2020)


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